Auxiliary volunteers give back to the community

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Tue., Jun. 28, 2011
Cassandra Pollnow of Manchester finishes her shopping at the Auxiliary's main gift shop at Manchester Memorial Hospital. Long-time volunteer Noreen Kirk of Andover shows newcomer Sue Carter of Manchester how to ring up the items. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Cassandra Pollnow of Manchester finishes her shopping at the Auxiliary's main gift shop at Manchester Memorial Hospital. Long-time volunteer Noreen Kirk of Andover shows newcomer Sue Carter of Manchester how to ring up the items. Photos by Martha Marteney.

For many members of the Auxiliary at Manchester Memorial Hospital, volunteering provides a way to give back to the community. “When the [John A. DeQuattro] Cancer Center opened,” said volunteer Sheila Alpert of Manchester, “I thought it would be a good fit. We enjoy volunteering. It makes you feel good.”

Nancy Crosen manages the Auxiliary’s locations at the ECHN-Manchester campus, including the main gift shop at MMH and the “Gift Shop II” in the hospital’s Ambulatory Services Unit, plus the boutique and café at the Cancer Center. In addition to Crosen, who is a full-time employee, there are only two other paid staff members, both of whom work part-time. The rest of the work is done by more than 65 volunteers.

“I love to give back to the community,” said Sue Carter of Manchester, “and I’m very much Manchester-oriented.” Carter recently started volunteering at the gift shop, after having volunteered at the hospital in other capacities for more than 15 years. The gift shop offers a wide range of items, including cards, small gifts, baby items, snacks and jewelry. All purchases are tax-exempt, and the profits go back to the ECHN-Manchester campus. The gift shop is located in the main lobby at MMH and is open weekdays from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The newest endeavors for the Auxiliary are the boutique and café at the Cancer Center, which opened in July 2010.  “We were happy to do it,” said Marilyn Peracchio, a member of the Auxiliary’s board of directors and the chairperson of the Auxiliary’s Manchester campus locations. “The volunteers we had were so receptive, because everyone’s been touched by cancer in some way.”

The boutique at the Cancer Center specializes in items for people undergoing treatment for cancer. In addition to wigs by René of Paris and other head coverings, there are radiation lotions and creams, cookbooks, therapy books, colorful canes and “feel-good” items such as jewelry and inspirational items. If the right wig is not already on the shelf, the boutique volunteers will special order wigs in different sizes and colors. “The prices are reasonable and the quality is good,” said Crosen, who visited similar shops at other hospitals before choosing the boutique’s selection. She noted that many insurance companies will reimburse the patient for the cost of the wigs. Boutique sales are not limited to cancer patients.

The boutique and café are located in the Cancer Center, just across from MMH on Haynes St. The boutique is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Cancer Center’s café is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I’m retired and I have had a lot of family members involved with cancer,” said volunteer Louise Ratcliffe, of South Windsor. “I wanted to give back, and I love people.”

“I see a lot of people I know, former students and their parents, and that always brings me a smile,” said Anne-Louise Gracyalny, who started volunteering with the Auxiliary in 1989.

In addition to the main gift shop and the new boutique and café, the Auxiliary continues to operate the “Gift Shop II” and coffee shop in the hospital’s Ambulatory Services Center. This location is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. “It’s a service both for patients and employees,” noted Lynda Ewald, of Vernon. She volunteers at the various locations. “In the boutique, I really feel I’m helping people,” she said, because they can get everything they need right there.

In addition to the locations at the ECHN-Manchester campus, the Auxiliary also operates the Penny Saver Thrift Shop, located at 319 Broad St. in Manchester. The Penny Saver is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The Auxiliary has been supporting the hospital for nearly 90 years, contributing some $4 million to hospital operations, scholarships and other healthcare related initiatives such as LifeLine, as well as millions of volunteer service hours. Membership opportunities range from volunteering as little as once a year to being the designated member of the Auxiliary Board of Directors to serve on the ECHN Board of Trustees. For more information on the Auxiliary, call 860-647-6842 or e-mail auxiliaryMMH@echn.org.


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